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What Would You Take with You?

People ask, “Amy, how did you do it?”

The answer is: Get rid of it all. Well, we didn’t get it all in a day, and it certainly didn’t all leave in a day.

One of the boys hand-made Christmas decorations

The earliest sentimental purging was done the Christmas of 2005. I took photos of all of the “precious” decorations that the boys had done in school. I was done gluing, tweaking, and propping up these works of art!  Having 4 boys, there was enough macaroni in the bottom of the Christmas totes to feed a small army. And as crazy as it may sound, you know what? They were not missed. Christmas went on, new memories were made, and the un-decorating was easier. Hmm, maybe I was on to something.


Unfortunately, the next year we moved into the “big house” (8511 as we refer to it). 3194 square feet of house in need of filling up! We moved up from “7806,” which had a limited 1622 square feet. How in the world were we going to be good consumers?!

When we first moved into the house, we felt like we needed a GPS to get out of the master closet suite! That room was bigger than our first apartment. While the size of the house was needed with 4 boys then aged 16, 14, 12, and 10, it also had its drawbacks. We had to install a phone system so we could call them to dinner, the upstairs needed a TV for the “boys’ bonus room,” and the kitchen island was just begging for a pot rack to make the kitchen look “Pinterest-y.” So, the stuff started coming in.

The boys recreating the “Please pass the salt” scene from the original Batman with our huge new table.

My favorite purchase–and still one of the things that brings me joy–is the table that we purchased. It is shown in the room that was calling out for it. It sat all of us, plus parents, extra kids, and anyone else who might show up around dinnertime. It’s now being cared for at one of our sons’ house, and it looks fantastic there, too–especially when we see it being used for family dinner as we Skype!

It also was a great staging area for the next major sentimental purging . . . photos!

This project started in 2010. Roger had been on several wild land fires in Eastern Washington previously. He had said how the people that lived there “knew the routine”: pack up your precious irreplaceable items in your car and be ready. Umm, no, thank you. But it did get me thinking: what would you take? It’s a good question at the start of your journey. I looked around and there were the boys’ baby boxes in one closet, important papers in the office file box, and photos… they were in albums, frames here and there…everywhere.  We were a good 10 years into the digital photos on the camera and phone at this time. 2000 was the year that I think we transitioned from standing in line at Costco to see how many of the 24 photos actually had been good ones. It still cost you $7.99. So our photo count for year 2000 was about 24! But previously, we kind of had a photo problem. Andy, our oldest, had 3 albums before he was 6 months old. Unfortunately, Cort, our youngest, started saving things himself because his baby tote was a shoe box and less than a quarter of the size of his brother’s.

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Live Slowly, Unclutter + Design A Simple Life

So, the picture sorting was on! Roger was down in the Gulf of Mexico working, so I had a good chunk of free time. Starting with a year in zip bags with a post-it of important events, what house, who was born, etc. Now they looked a bit more manageable. I got a small flat-bed scanner and got to it. I scanned at work, I scanned at home, I scanned while watching “The Tudors.” I scanned and saved in PDF. Oh, no! Yes, I then realized that you can’t do anything really with a PDF. So I re-scanned everything, saving to folders with the year, diligently saving every single photo to the computer. Then the computer crashed, it was recovered (for a steep price), and everything was saved onto a external hard drive… and then it crashed and it was recovered (this time I just gave him a blank check). Now I am a LOYAL and faithful customer to Dropbox!


The actual photos resided in a tote that was moved to two different houses. I know that I had scanned them, but what to do with them now? I looked through Pinterest…decoupage, photo walls, so many ideas, but nothing that I wanted to do. So, they sat. And sat. And sat. Every once in a while I would think of a photo–did it get scanned? I would check; yes, it’s there. Okay, good. I was now ready to get rid of them, but how? Garbage? Too creepy. What if someone took them? Burning them? I did that with the old checkbooks a few years before and felt like a criminal. Shred them? Channel your inner Ollie North? Have Roger take them to work and have them destroyed? Yes! So, the tote sat behind his car for about 6 months, and he would take one of those labeled, scanned zippies to work and put it into the shred bin. You know what? The memories did not disappear, the clutter was gone, and they were accessible from any digital means! There is still a folder in my Dropbox that I am whittling away at “photos that need sorting,” but that is manageable from a beach in Thailand.


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